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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 1, 2013 8:00am-9:05am EST

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of those has ever been publicly released and none of them will be released except the first one at this point. i have more faith in my ability to get things than in the government's ability to give them to me. >> host: the most recent book, 500 days:secrets and lies in the terror wars. >> now from a conference on the 6 theth anniversary of the publication of whitaker chambers's witness, a title history of witness, a little over an hour. >> thank you. thank you, nathaniel, thank you all in the audience for being here today. last semester, here at yale i had the privilege to teach a course of intellectual legacy of william f. buckley jr.. in this course i dedicate in a
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couple of weeks to build buckley's anti communism as a principal and philosophical position. bill buckley once told me late in his wife that his most important book may have been odyssey of a friend, a book in which buckley and characteristically barely says or write anything, but in which he creates a sort of literary and philosophical interview with whitaker chambers. in odyssey, we see chambers again bare his soul, this time directly to young admirers, friends and colleagues. revisiting parts of these books in preparation for this conference i was struck most of all by the deep emotional intensity and raw humanity that flows out of so many of these pages. a man is trying to account to himself and to the world how he made his choices, where he fell
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and where he blundered but also the very no going back, how doing the right thing can mean everything and not just for his own soul but for his family, country and generation. bill buckley as some of you know was a dramatic and emotional man, very much so, so it is not surprising to me that chambers's odyssey moves profoundly. as my students know, bill buckley had many formative influences but the comment in his life that was chambers certainly ranks as the most unexpected, mysterious and in tents so i applaud the choice of this work witness as the one to fall last year's god and man at yale for our second annual buckley program conference. to help us get started today, we have produced three distinguished gentlemen who know
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much about the subject. be edwards sitting in the middle, a distinguished fellow and conservative off at the heritage foundation kenneth simon center for principals and politics. dr. edwards has enjoyed a career as one of the leading historians of american conservatism. his works have ranged from biographies of president reagan to a recent biography of william f. buckley. dr. edwards is founding director of the institute of political journalism at georgetown and is a fellow at the institute of politics at the jfk school of government at harvard. john lewis gas is one of the leading historians of the cold war. professor guess that the the pulitzer prize for his biography of the diplomat george kennan. professor gattis's work has influenced the work of cold war historians all over the world and played a major role in
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uncovering the role of leadership personalities in determining cold war policy. the influence of his work on the narrative of the cold war can be seen in the 24 part cnn television series cold war. finally evans, a graduate of yale university, class of -- can you help me? 1955. missing that detail. mr. evans is one of the leading members of the conservative movement in the united states. his book blacklisted by history:the untold story of senator joe mccarthy and his fight against america's enemies gives an account of the age of mccarthyism during the cold war. evans has been the recipients of honorary documents from syracuse university and the john marshall law school and accuracy in media award for excellence in journalism. please join me now in welcoming
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our panelists. [applause] >> would you like to start? >> such a pleasure and honor to be here once again. i was flattered to be asked to participate in the first seminar last year and i didn't do too badly because i am back today. and icy some good friends out here and also some people including senator jim buckley and he deserves a round of applause. [applause] >> let us begin with a paradox. whitaker chambers was a soviet spy who became in bill buckley's
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words the most important american defector from communism. chambers's public witness about the seductive attractions of communism and its treasonous adherents began in august of 1948 when he identified alger hiss, a bold employe of the liberal establishment as a fellow member of his underground communist cell in the 1930s. this was a former assistant to secretary of state and adviser to president franklin d. roosevelt, the acting secretary general of the united nations' founding conference in san francisco and recently named president of the carnegie endowment for international peace. he emphatically denied chambers's allegation. agreed deal more than the reputations of these two men was
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at stake. if alger hiss was -- innocent, anti-communist and those associated like richard nixon, a prominent member of the congressional investigating committee would be dealt a devastating blow. as if alger hiss was guilty, anti communism would occupy a prominent part of the political landscape and its spokesman would become national leaders. furthermore, chambers and alger hiss represented one side of the epic struggle of the cold war. one man symbolized the philosophy of freedom and western civilization. the other the ideology of totalitarianism and marxism and leninism. left and right understood that america and the world was at a critical point in history. consider a major political event
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that transpired between august of 1948 when chambers confronted alger hiss and a congressional hearing and may of 1952 when chambers published his managerial and magisterial memoir witness. in february of 1948 the communists seized control of czechoslovakia. it was the first soviet seizure by force of of free popular government and it stunned official washington. in china mao tse tung's forces, the following year, the communists would assume command of the world's most populous nation. 1950 was a particularly eventful year. in january fuchs' surrendered to british authorities admitting he was a nuclear spy fact. the same month alger hiss was
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convicted of perjury. the statute of limitations on espionage having expired and he was sent to jail. en masse a the fbi arrested harry gold to an identified julius and ethel rosenberg as co-conspirators in a plot to give nuclear secrets to moscow. and in june, north korea invaded south korea and presented the u.s. with a choice, turn back the invasion or all of the communists to secure a key piece on the chessboard of asia and in 1952, whitaker chambers published witness, which argued that the united states faced a transcendent, not a transitory crisis, that the crisis was not one of politics or economics but of faith, and a secular liberalism, the dominant of the
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day, was a watered-down version of communism. no wonder the liberals have never forgiven chambers, nor have they been able to forget him. at this point on want to offer a few observations about the other man on the case, a man who will be talking in a little bit from, that man is of course alger hiss. i do not believe you can fully understand and chambers and his place in history without examining alger hiss. i am able to call upon an expert witness, chicago tribune reporter weathered edwards who observed alger hiss for estimated 500 hours during the congressional hearings and two trials resulting in alger hiss's conviction. in april of 1956, mr. edwards, my father, addressed a large audience of undergraduates in princeton, the evening before
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alger hiss was scheduled to speak at the university about u.s. foreign policy. alger hiss on foreign policy. what else can one say about princeton's invocation but once politically correct, always politically correct. here are some of the things edwards said to the assembled students, quote, you will be observing as brilliant, as an adroit commack as charming personality as i have witnessed in more than 30, as charming pe as i have witnessed in more than 30 years of newspaper experience. he was convicted by a jury of willful perjury to conceal his role as a traitor and a spy. edwards recalled that in his
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first appearance before the house committee on american activities, alger hiss in dignity -- indignantly denied allegations that he would communist, quote, i never witnessed a more convincing display of righteous wrath, my father said, as alger hiss swore he never laid eyes on whitaker chambers. he blinked at a photograph of chambers in utter amazement. less than a month later alger hiss confronted with chambers' himself was to confess that he had indeed been known to man and known him intimately and even given him an automobile. bought out for his was not embarrassed. the picture of injured innocence, profuse in explanations of why he failed to recall a man whose appearance is exactly that of the man in the phone and photograph shown him. alger hiss explained he had
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known chambers but under another name, that of george crosby. it never occurred to him to think of the -- that the committee might be talking about a dead beat newspaperman. at this point, my father said, that i began to realize that alger hiss was a dangerous man. it is important to remember that chambers's original charge against his former friend and co-conspirator was not espionage but communist affiliation only. if out your hiss had admitted he toyed with communism for a time, as many others in the government did in 1930s, he would have been absolved by the establishment and men like secretary of state dean acheson who on the day alger hiss was sentenced said publicly mr. acheson said that he would never turn his back on
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alger hiss but it was not in alger hiss, a man of monumental arrogance to admit he had strayed over so slightly from the path. he was, my father some up, a man of passionate an almost pathological convictions of his own rectitude regardless of overwhelming evidence of guilt. as set forth by our colleague who will be speaking later, the alger hiss case inform the american people that there was an internal communist threat. however, in the 1948 presidential campaign, harry truman called any such notion a red herring, but communists had infiltrated the federal government all the way up to and including the white house. defending alger hiss became a liberal obsession. consequently the alger hiss
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chambers case contributed to the lurch to the left and its refusal and an ability to view the soviet union objectively and to concede that it was a clear and present danger. .. >> asked why mr. reagan replied, because 100 years from now, people will have forgotten the
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details, but i want them to remember that alger hiss went to jail as a traitor here and whittaker chambers was honored by his fellow citizens. since his conviction, verified anti-communism as an potent -- they gave bill buckley another fusion is conservative to cause by which the conservatives and libertarians against a common enemy, liberalism. the historian george nash and others have argued persuasively that without any communism there would have been no unified conservative movement beginning in the 1950s. and without a conservative movement, there would have been no presidential candidate, barry goldwater, in 1964, and no president-elect reagan in 1980. "witness" is an essential work
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of the conservative canon. it may have enlisted more un-american anti-communist than any other book of the cold war. that included reagan, who could quote from memory the first pages of the forward for many years afterwards. russia, longtime publisher of "national review," libertarian columnist and author john chamberlain, and the prince of darkness, conservative columnist commentator, robert novak. whittaker chambers was one of the great men of our time, wrote a conservative publisher. why? because of his enormous talent as a writer, his steadfast courage in the face of a ferocious liberal campaign to destroy him. it's "witness" to god's grace and the fortifying power of faith. whittaker chambers placed every conservative in this depth, and
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for all time. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you. were going to ask our panelists to speak from, sitting down. professor gaddis. >> well, thank you. thanks to the organizers. i think it's probably fair to say that all of the professors have certain guilty secrets. i have a big one, which i will confess in public for the first time this afternoon. and that is, i've been teaching covert history all this time. although i certainly have been aware of the importance of the book that we are talking about here, and although my colleagues -- embarrassed me by telling me that she has been assigned this book to her students ever since
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she came to yale. the fad -- the sad fact is nathaniel -- i had not read "witness." [laughter] i take some consolation in joseph epstein's recent confession which he may have seen in "the weekly standard" that is only just now got around to reading the bible, after all this time. [laughter] and epstein said in his commentary, there's great stuff there. [laughter] well, that's what i felt about "witness." as over the last 10 days or so i have been reading it, every line of it, sitting up late reading it, if you pass by my house you can see a lonely light in the darkness of the light. that's my ipad that actually has "witness" on it now. it was compelling. it really kept me up nights reading. and as epstein says, of the
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bible, there is great stuff there. just for example, the aphorisms that are embedded within quotes. man must do what they think right, not yield to what dean's probable. there is weight in it. on the multiple soviet spy apparatus is that operate in this country in the 1930s, chambers comments, well, the russians believe in both -- both. there's faith reflected in it. without god, one only organizes the world against god. there is a distinction, distinctions are made about personalities in very fundamental ways. there are differences that chambers writes in the h. and purpose of life, in the sole angle of mission. and yet, before i got to the end of this long book, i found
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myself wishing that whittaker chambers, who was himself a famous an excellent editor, had hired one to work with him on this book. because as epstein says of the bible, there are lots of big gaps in it. even sacred text, epstein implies, can stand to be shortened in places, and perhaps that true of "witness," particularly as you move through the final half of it, or so. so what i came away with was a sense of admiration, deep admiration, deep respect, combined with as i went through it and got to know it better, some sense of exasperation as well. i was hearing things, reading things which i have read before. and that sense of admiration and exasperation really resonated
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with me. indeed, it struck me as a very familiar emotions. and i got to thinking, where does that emotion come from, that combination of admiration and exasperation? i thought of my yale students who sometimes married these contradictions, but i don't think it came from the. i thought of my own effort to connect what i write with what i think is exasperation here being difficulties that i don't know what i think until i write. but the real reason i think that "witness" e-book these mixed emotions in me as i read it, came from the parallels that i saw to it more recently published book, with which i had a somewhat closer connection. it's rather unimaginatively titled george f. kennan and american life. now, i'm chagrined on going back and looking at my book, that in
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its 800 pages it certainly is not brief. there's not a single reference to whittaker chambers in it. in fact, i particularly appreciate the forbearance of chambers biographer, for not mentioning this embarrassing fact in his long and thoughtful review of my book in "the new republic" last winter. kennan himself, i looked this up, did refer briefly but only obliquely to chambers in the second volume of his memoir, published in 1972. for 10 and took a couple of pages to say that he had followed the chambers case carefully, a quarter century earlier, but still was unsure, as many people were in 1972, of who to believe in that case, who was telling the truth. of course, we know the answer to that question much more clearly now, thanks that only two the
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biography of chambers but also to the courageous scholarship, allen weinstein and others who have followed his pioneering work your today, nobody can reasonably doubt the truth in the life, particularly of the evidence that the surface from soviet sources in the last 20 years or so. although, as was pointed out to me the other day, you can still get in trouble if you stand in a certain sidestreets in upper manhattan and shout out, alger hiss was guilty. [laughter] now, what's so strongly struck me in reading "witness" for the first time, however, i think was less how well it holds up in light of recent scholarship. that i hadn't known about. i hadn't expected. what i was not expecting in reading this book was what were seemed to me to be a number of yearly similarities between the
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personalities of whittaker chambers and the man that i have spent a lot of time with recent, not just recently, for the last three decades, george f. kennan. these reside i think in the fact that neither chambers nor kennan fit categories. they did not fit the compartment. they did not fit the pigeonholes that we too easily seek to cram personalities into. it just didn't fit. cannon house wrote of chambers that he was a unique blend of romantic poet, religious, pilgrim and political revolutionary. he goes on to say that chambers and tempers never stops quarreling about him. to some he was a fascist. to something larger. the most a mystery. but now here is cannon house on kennan in his new republic review.
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company, one is hard-pressed to think of another public individual so consistently driven not merely to revise himself but also to repudiate himself. agonizingly at times. with the result that his worst can be summoned to the independence or in rebuttal of almost any foreign policy position. they can be casted almost any life. thank you has become his admirers but also his detractors. so this got me to thinking about plutarch. he got me to thinking about parallel lives. they got me to thinking about what would happen if you just did have a brief intellectual exercise for a friday afternoon to think about the parallel lives of george kennan and whittaker chambers. if chambers and kennan would each like so few others, how much were they liked each other? and that's what i will spend the rest of my time talking. chronologically, there are only
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close in part. chambers as most of you know was born in 1901, and in 1904, but chambers only to the age of 60. kennan lived to the age of 101, and would delay in publishing his biography, the source of profuse apologies over the years to me from the subject. [laughter] kennan and chambers are closer, it seems to me, in having had difficult childhoods marked by family tragedy. for kennan, it was the death of his mother two months after he was born. for chambers, it was the suicide of a beloved brother in his '20s. both chambers and kennan had ivy league education. but neither in the years that followed ever felt part of any establishment. both men were afflicted with a
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deep cultural sms him that was rooted not enforcing another world war. it went back further than that. it was rooted deeply in the 1920s in the post world war i period. there were periods of optimism in the lives of chambers and tenant, but they were prepared i would say for chambers, it's his period as editor at times in world war ii. i would say for kennan, it's his year at the national war college, and then the early days of policy planning staff where he was able to make it work as he wished with the total support of general george marshall, who have been become secretary of state. these periods of optimism were fleeting for both men. both men sounded the alarm about soviet intentions. chambers, the roosevelt administration threw it off early, as early as 1939, with no visible result.
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kennan, to the roosevelt administration through diplomatic reporting from moscow in 1944-45, which he also felt to have been in effect. both men found themselves as result isolated from many of their contemporaries, even ostracized for having gone out on the limbs. although kennan's indication was far more quickly and far less painfully than that of whittaker chambers. neither took satisfaction in vindication, however. self congratulations for both men, both atypically in the modern age, was almost impossible. that's remarkable. one reason for this i think was a religious faith, which became deeper for both of these men, as they aged. but that faith resided in the city of god, not in the city of man. hence, that faced minimal expectations for what beyond
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bearing witness could be accomplished in this life. both men doubted the capacity of their naïve, gullible country, united states to survive in a sinister world. both were at the same time and in their own way deeply dedicated to american patriot is him. the only active "witness" illuminated the countries path to survival through this horrible century. their despair, however, was so deep that both not only contemplated suicide, but actually took steps to make it possible. as chambers describes it in "witness," it was the day he went to a garden store in lower manhattan and picked up bug killer, which actually was cyanide laced, and to get home and open the can and tried to mix it with the right amount of water and throw a towel over his
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head and breathe the fumes and hope to wake up not waking up. but he was saved by its own shortsightedness. he could not read the instructions on the can, and so got the proportions wrong. for kennan, it was during his brief ambassadorship in moscow in 1952, when the situation was so grim that kennan insisted that the cia to equip them with suicide pills, lessened the event of war he be interned as he had been in nazi germany in 1942, so that was what the purpose of the suicide pills were in his case. he didn't use them. he told me he flushed them down the toilet eventually. but that he ordered him. i think is significant. >> both men in later life preoccupied themselves, and, indeed, overwhelm anybody who would read them or listen to
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them. with great fears, and i mean great fears in capital letters. chambers, that the new deal and all that follow from it was part of some kind of gigantic communist conspiracy. kennan, that nuclear weapons could not be developed and deployed without placing at risk the face of the earth. both significant i think were farmers. chambers in maryland, kennan in pennsylvania. finding the physical labor associate with that profession at least a limited refuge at midlife, especially family life, popular. and, finally, both were great writers. even if the writing is repetitious, that grows, their pros get their ideas compelling against time and place. and as ronald reagan was suggesting, it will do that in the future. which is to say that each man produced classical works that will be read as far as we can
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see in the future. one of which, of course, we celebrate here today. now, in his review in the new criterion, jim pearson, who i think is -- is a junior? he's on the way i guess. jim pearson summed up kennan and a single sentence, an accomplishment which i never came close to achieving in my book. kennan was, jim wrote, quote, an independent thinker of the first order who, at a critical moment in history, sal something clearly that others saw but through the haze. and by an act of singular intellectual courage earned absolution for any misjudgments he may have subsequently committed. i hope jim would not mind if i change only two words in that quote, to let it some of whittaker chambers. who, through an act of singular
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moral courage, earned absolution for any misjudgments he may previously have committed. thanks for your attention. [applause] >> thank you very much. and mr. evans, and then will go until about 3:45 and took questions and answers. >> thank you. first of all, it is a great pleasure to be back. i've had many a class in this building and i'm pleased to say it's exactly the same as it was 60 years ago. [laughter] some things do not change. further nostalgic, i was a freshman here when god and men and yale came out. i read it at the time to everyone was in a complete uproar against it, although no one had read it last night for i
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did read it and said this is exactly what is going on here. and so that was my introduction to bill buckley whom i've been met while still an undergradua undergraduate. he was a friend of mine for those many years until he passed away recently. and the last time i took the train up from washington to connecticut it was to see bill at stanford some years ago. i used to take it all the time to come back and forth. we lived outside washington at the time, to new haven. and that always enjoyed riding the train. he and i talked about this earlier. the only problem was you had to go through new york, and i'm always reminded of the little girl who was trying to save the lord's prayer, got confused and said, lead us not into 10th
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station. [laughter] and truer words were never spoken. it was a little better than that. anyway, i read, since i did read "witness" shortly after it came out, they came out when i was a sophomore in 1952, i didn't read it at the time but i -- i've read and read read it many times since but it is a book that rewards careful study. and i approach it, have approached it, a new book that i co-authored that just came out, in which chambers emerges a sort of the central character which was not my intention when i began. but the more i looked into matters, the more i realized that chambers was a critical figure in almost too many senses to list. his book is among other things, apart from its literary merits and its tremendous gift of
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language, is the history of the domestic coal, one of the best. it is not only a history, it is a source. he was himself a primary source. you have to go to the primary sources. it's very risky to rely on secondary sources that he was himself a primary source. and i would say he was also, his book was perplexed. that i benchmarks of judgment there that stand in good stead to this day, in addition to the information that he provides. as i delved into some of these things myself, using some primary sources, mostly fbi files, i realize the centrality of chambers to behold domestic cold war story, not only in his case but of the ones. the more i learned about his travails and his service and his
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sacrifices, the more i learn through him about the nature of the internal problem in our security situation in the 1930s and, particularly in the 1940s, although he gave most of his testimony about the '30s, he was still around in the '40s, as you know. he was consulted often by the fbi. i realized that i formally what i call about that problem evans law of an adequate paramilitary. which says that no matter how bad you think something is, when you look into it it's always worse. that was certainly the case with the penetration of our government by agents of the soviet union, numbers of the communist party, fellow travelers on all of which fronts chambers is most instructive.
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and he made these points that have been confirmed repeatedly by the new information, one was the extent of this event alluded to by the previous speakers, of the penetration. it was not only formidable in terms of numbers but in the level of penetration. there were many of these agents and many, many posts of power. alger hiss was one of them. he was not alone. another was white, the treasury department to another was in the white house. these are three top soviet agents at very high levels in our government. the second point, let me just follow that up a little bit. all of that he told us, that he intimates in "witness" is confirmed over and over again. by the records from the soviet union, to the decryption's which were secret messages sent back and forth between the moscow bosses and the agents over here,
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which the code was broken back in the '40s. there were other records from the soviet union, the papers which have recently come forth, the defecting kgb agent in as many of the suspects that he knew about from kgb records in moscow. and most of all, the fbi files, of which there are hundreds of thousands of pages on these cases, on hiss, on white, and a bevy of other the suspects, particularly during the war, when the soviets were our allies. all of this over and over again confirms everything chambers had to say. and, indeed, goes beyond what chambers had to say because he did not know what everything the fbi knew. the fbi knew what he knew but he didn't know what the fbi knew.
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the second major point that spins off about was chambers' assertion, which this book is about, that's a real issue was not -- it was a spine. that's what all the movies are about. that's where all the cloak and dagger images are. it was policy influence. what these people were doing, in some cases with greater success than others but often with very great success, was to tilt american policy during the cold war in favor of the soviet interest. and he made that point very strongly in his come in "witness," and it's been confirmed by every tenure i've seen in a recent study. this book contains case history, case studies of pearl harbor, what happened in china, what happened in poland, the plan for
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germany in a cow past year, the slave labor as reparation and moscow approved at yalta. the yalta conference was a major factor. operation keelhaul was turned truly soviet wreckage is back over to the soviets. those are examples, and there are others, but those i do know of in which pro-soviet operatives within our government tilted policy in favor of the communist interest. our point that chambers makes over and over again in "witness" and is confirmed by everything else that we've seen since, which contributed to his, he had a very gross temperament. he was very pessimistic, and with good reason. he knew a lot and he couldn't get other people to believe it. he was a cassandra and, as
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professor gaddis pointed out, he made revelations about these problems but in the '40s but in 1939. assistant secretary of state, nothing was done. he named hiss van in 1939. that was ignored at the time to end the war the post-soviet atmosphere, no one wanted to hear such things. he then ran into greater efforts at concealment and misrepresentation when a case surfaced almost a decade later, in 1948, and this made him extremely pessimistic. and as kind of a pervasive sense of doom in the final chapters of "witness," which was personal, and a suicide attempt as has been mentioned, fortunately did not succeed, but also society. he thought we were doomed. he thought the free world was
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doomed. and the reason, one of the reasons he thought that was the believe that there were people in the government, knew what was going on and we do nothing about it and he was right in this respect, that how white is hard to gauge, but he himself is in considerable peril when he made revelations he did, when before the house committee in august 1948, testified in public against hiss and others, things get said in private long beforee the fbi. the fbi news in 1945 at the latest. everything chambers said 48, the fbi knew and 9045. we have those records to show that. no one would do anything about it but not only that, but when we went for the house committee in the white house from that day, august 16, 1948, there was a meaning at the top levels from the attorney general, various white house aides, plans were made to indict chambers for
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perjury. they were not going to indict hiss. they're going to indict chambers. that persisted well into the end of 1948. further point, hard to tell all this in 10 minutes, the rewriting of the cold war history in 10 minutes as professor gaddis nose is difficult. and hiss, just a point about hiss. hiss was far more important than has ever been appreciated. far more important i might say that some of the very good history has appreciated because they didn't have the records. one in terms of writing cold war and that history is getting at the primary sources. one would think that a primary source would be an official government publication. the yalta documents, a book of a thousand pages long, i'll, the run up to yalta, the minutes, the names at yalta, what happens in terms of the aftermath of
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yalta, and we discussed some of that in this book. unfortunately, when those papers were compiled, the state department does not have the primary records, or all of them. and among the papers they did not have with the papers of the secretary of state. when he left the state department in july 1945 he took his papers within. they then vanished, not in a sinister means, just, they were taken away and not returned big state department did not have them when it published the yalta documents. the result is many revelations that are in the papers have been secret for these many decades. these papers it turns out are at the university of virginia in charleston. and i was able to get them there, and you will find many things there that are not in the official call for compilation, but the main thing that want to
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stress is that they show, the role of hiss far more sensitive than anything that is in the official compilation. hiss was probably the one american at yalta who knew what he was doing. and i say that in an almost literal sense. he had been suggested for two months at the time of yalta. he was a novice and knew nothing about foreign policy. president roosevelt distressingly, the record shows was almost dead. he was very, very confused on many issues. alger hiss was not confuse. he knew what he was doing and he was the person at all the paperwork on had all the documents, all the cables went through him. he was all over the place. that is in the papers, very little of it is in the yalta documents. but i'm almost done. chambers said something very somber, very pessimistic, very
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-- he said that he was leaving the winning side, communism, for the losing side. it was the one thing about which he was wrong. what convinced him that he was right about that was the unwillingness in people in authority to hear the truth, deny the truth, they ignored the truth, they censored the truth. and this came to the floor in a grand jury session and 1944, 9048 for all these commies and soviet agents were paraded into testified. alger hiss, white, the list is long, they're all in the book, they were allowed to walk because the prosecutors in his said there's only one witness against them come and that's elizabeth bentley who is another common as witness and, therefore, we cannot convict these people. they let them all walk. they could have had hiss been.
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the other witnesses they could've had was chambers. they refused to call and. it was only when he got called after meetings in the summer of 48 when the let those people go that broke the case and led to the conviction of alger hiss, and we have the minutes of those grand jury sessions and fbi records pertaining to those. that changed the course of history. whittaker chambers not only lived history and wrote history, but he changed history. and we, to this day, i do think fully appreciate how important he was in this pivotal episode, where he broke through the cover up to bring about the indictments and later conviction of alger hiss, and the course of history after that was changed america. my time is up. i thank you for yours. [applause]
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>> thank you, mr. evans. and two, panelists. we have about 15 minutes for questions, but before i ask you to come down and speak into the mic max, let me also welcome governor daniels to our -- [applause] -- conference today. the mic max already come and your questions are welcome. go ahead. >> [inaudible] spent just ask the question in the microphone. thank you. >> okay. this is really in the nature of an observation. i was very much appreciative of professor kennan's comparison, talk. i have to say that, i was listening to the chambers
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material. i was rather struck by another possible comparison, extraneous to the conference, but i thought, rather gently, lance armstrong. and here we have another case of an extremely charming man, righteously professes his innocence in the face of really large bodies of contrary evidence. now, that evidence comes mostly from his teammates, who are men of integrity, not as charming as lance armstrong himself, in the case of "peace, the alger hiss,e whittaker chamber's. those of you have seen pictures of these two men will have to be
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struck by the enormous difference in their appearance. hiss, you know, well-dressed. chambers, shambles, he is poorly dressed. is close don't really fit. he has bad teeth. so he is certainly not a charmer, and it seems to me, though this is a very small sample, that it behooves us to think that we need to be wary of charm. [laughter] because it may be that slovenly wins the day. [applause] >> thank you. >> any comments? [laughter] mr. evans. >> i just want to say, everything you say is true. [inaudible] someone who is not been charming to.
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[laughter] i appreciate your observations. i might say wasn't just chambers. they were five to identify hiss. daniel while, i forget a couple of us. elizabeth knew about them. so it wasn't just chambers. and the documents and -- there's a reference people think, it is conclusive that hiss is what chambers said, such as want to make that clear. it wasn't just one, you know, two men disagreed. >> yes? >> i'm beverly. i'm in the history department here and want to -- what john said. i just wanted to make a quick observation about "witness" and also post a question. so the observation is i think for those of you who haven't read it, "witness" is a really
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fascinating book and people tend to think what's fastening about it is the indictment of communism. but it's also actually a fascinating account of conversion to communism, and about actually about is very early expenses and his expenses in the 1930s about why in fact he became economies and i think that's not always as obvious about the book but it's very important about it as a historical document. so my question, i happen to be writing about j. edgar hoover at the moment. my question is really for stan evans which is to say that he is a video i think has gone down in history as not having a particularly great reputation in kind of the public consciousness in terms of, some of the roles he played during the late '40s, early '50s in terms of the battle against mccarthyism. and i'm just wondering how you see who was wrote in all this, both in terms of your own research, his relationship with
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chambers, with bentley and other figures, sort of where you come down about j. edgar hoover. >> i am a great j. edgar hoover fan. i spent untold hours at the fbi, going through the archives there. i have in my possession over 100,000 pages of fbi files, which i got legally through freedom of information. [laughter] fbi agents in the room -- elizabeth bailey when she went to the fbi, this is where she went to the fbi, right here. she was the other major witness against all these suspects. hoover was a stalwart patriot. no question about it. he was meticulous in record-keeping. database even movie that came out, marvel casting of leonardo dicaprio as j. edgar hoover.
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who came up with that? i would have preferred brad pitt frankly for that role, but -- [laughter] but in any event, the movie has lots of falsehoods. but most what we're given as alleged history, i'll present company excepted, is that. i am reminded of what mary mccarthy said about william holmes. every word she writes is a lie, including and and the. [laughter] and that's my view, of what is out there about who. i think he -- for the same reasons chambers gets me. finally, hoover himself was very skeptical of chambers. these fbi guys didn't just accept anybody and anyone telling them so. they didn't accept that we. they spent a lot of time backtracking, checking. i might say evasively checking up on people through wiretaps,
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which there are many in the fbi files, transcripts but i say once you read raw wiretaps you never want to go back. that's the real stuff. this is unedited. it's the real thing. and what they did over and over again was to find out who was telling the truth. and if i'm determined that chambers was the one telling the truth. long before the case became public. >> professor gaddis, do you want to say something? >> it was a question that i want to raise. and it's something that puzzled me in reading witness -- "witness," something that puzzled me in thinking through the new literature that has come out on all of these issues. and this is the invisibility of, relative invisibility of henry wallace. this is, it seems to me a really
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interesting situation. because there is soviet documents station indicating very strongly that wallace was readily reporting to the kremlin am certainly in 1945 and 46 when still in the truman administration cabinet come at this point as secretary of commerce. but also one thing that i came up with with regard to the 1948 campaign is the frustration of a secret effort that currency and general marshall had made to who should approach the service about the possibility of negotiation, and that was blown wide open in a way that strongly suggests contact between wallace and the kremlin at the time that wallace was running on the progressive party ticket for president, third party ticket for president. so i asked myself, you know, who is the real hero in this story, in this whole history. someone who's gotten a bad rap so far in the hole whittaker
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chambers alger hiss case and some who got a bad rap from george f. kennan come but it is the president of the united states, franklin d. roosevelt, who, for whatever reason i'm and we may never know the reason, don't wallace from the ticket in 1944. and sent him on an inspection trip to siberia. [laughter] where he confused gulags with a like to farms. now, if you want to play it as a counterfactual game, and someone should write i think the philip roth counterfactual novel, change just one thing. truman -- or roosevelt does not dump wallace from the ticket in 44, and then wallace becomes president of the united states at the time that all of this stuff is breaking loose. what would've happened at that point? why do more people talk about
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this? >> we have time for one more question, and going to use my prerogative and see if i can gauge dashing engage lee with maybe this question. in the famous letter to my children, the forward to the book "witness," chambers writes the following quote, from page 16. communism is what happens when the name of mine, capitalizes mind, men free themselves from god, a little bit below that, there has never been a society or a nation without god, but history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to god and died. then he says, sums up, the crisis of the western world exist to the degree in which is indifferent to god, existed it's great in which the western world actually shares communism, materialist vision and. so i think i would like to ask
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more about whittaker chambers materialism. what, from our three expert panelists here. what is whittaker chambers materialism? how did he understand materialism, and did he see liberalism as well as communism sharing that same diseased? >> it seems to me that if you listen to that particular quote, you can see why bill buckley was so attracted and drawn to whittaker chambers. and you can see why he was inspired and so anxious, really anxious to involve whittaker chambers as a member of the editorial board from "national review" when he was forming it, wanted desperately to have chambers on board. and if you begin to think about what's been brought together, people, and that's what i'm particularly interested in, have written about and talked about, referred to here, it's bringing together the various strains of
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server to some, that conservatives, traditional conservatives, libertarians and others, what to do that, what could bring them together? i think it one level, it certainly was the realization that communism as personified by the soviet union, was clear and present danger, and that bill reached out to traditionalists like russell kirk to libertarians like frank meyer and said please, let's come together, and let's form this magazine, and let's form this movement. i was also part of what he was trying to do. i think at the same time that if you look at whittaker chambers life, i think he was very indifferent of materials. i mean, it did not really matter to him at all. and you can see that light, there are all kinds of things, which for example, after writing "witness" they were both contracts which he was offered. he could've made an extraordinary amount of money writing, no, sql, a follow-up,
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any of the book or number of books about but he said what had to be said and he decided to require -- retired to the forms are in westminster, on the western shore of maryland. so i don't think he was a materialist at all. and certainly that would not have interested the buckley at all either, and would not have interested i think the conservative movement at that time. as it was by this danger which became so clear to them in the soviet union and in communism. >> thank you very much. we reconvene in 10 minutes. [applause] >> visit to watch any of the programs you see here online. type the author a book title in the search bar on the upper left side of the page and click search. you can share anything you see on easily by
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clicking chair on the upper left side of the page and selecting the format. booktv streams live online for 40 hours every weekend for top nonfiction books and authors. or next, from a conference on the succeed anniversary of the publication of whittaker chambers book, "witness," a panel entitled foreign policy and a chambers, is "witness"'s message relevant today. this is about an hour 10 minutes. >> thanks, nathaniel. grades are coming out fast. [laughter] this is the panel on "witness" and its relevance for it today. and that's kind of a larger than you might think question, because this work is clearly a classic. in m


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